Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hummer's Feeding the Babies

OK, she's not very happy about me taking her picture as you can see in the shot below. I know she knows I'm here as she pays attention to what I'm doing at the window every now and then. But this shot has the unmistakable look of being perturbed. She looks a little bit like a seagull with the sun shining upon her, doesn't she? Another problem with taking thse pictures is that it seems the wind is always blowing and I have to track the nest as it bobs around. That's not good for getting a decent focus. There's also the high contrast of the shots with the nest often buried in shadow. But taking pictures through a window is a challenge itself.

So - finally! - here it is! A picture of the mother hummingbird feeding one of her babies. She seems to thrust her long beak into the babies beak. You can only see the baby from the neck up. On the left of the nest is baby #2, in the same position as the baby being fed. Maybe there'll be additional opportunities for photos. I'd like to see how that initial entry into the world of flight goes. Do they know how to hover right out of the nest or do they sink like a rock?

I'll keep an eye on the nest and see what unfolds this nest week.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Catalpa A-Bloomin'

Surely the Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) isn't in favor with any landscaper nowadays but when it is in bloom, it is a tree-like version of an orchid. Each flower (2" or so in diameter) is pure white with throats of yellow and lavendar. This year, our two trees at the streetside of the property, have recovered from the trimmers who liberated the power lines a few years ago. The southern-most tree is alive with flowers; the northern tree is sparse.

A wider view shows Pinehaven buried behind the backdrop of catalpas. The limbs hang almost to the ground, heavy with flowers. Soon enough the flowers will be replaced with long beans giving the tree its common name of "Cigartree". I remember my grandfather collecting worms from catalpas when he went fishing and we've had passerbys ask to glean this same harvest. I like the trees, once the blooms have passed, for their dinner plate-sized, heart-shaped leaves. These are bold trees, not sissy maples! They're not afraid to say "profuse" and mean it.

Hummingbird Status Report

The mother hummingbird must now have hatchlings in the nest but she's keeping them hidden. She leaves the nest for several minutes at a time and then, upon returning, stands on the side of the nest dipping her beak down below where we can see. She is a Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

These shots were taken from our second floor bathroom window and have to be shot through glass. I have a 12x optical zoom on the camera but I've pushed it a little further - to 30x - with a digital zoom. The picture could be sharper, I suppose, but considering our ringside seat, I'm pretty happy with the view we're getting.

The mother bird is finally varying her seating position and I'm being favored with more than rear shots. I have been lucky that the maple hasn't covered my view with leaves. Only when it is raining and the leaves are heavy do I lose my best view.

The nest itself is exquisite, a fine down interior (looks like dandylion seeds) and the outside thick with lichens. I see her adjust the exterior work with her beak, as though she's not quite happy yet with her skill level.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Land of Lincoln - Part 5

Oak Ridge Cememtery - in the northern part of Springfield - is the site of Lincoln's tomb. The monument (shown below) was completed in 1874 and paid for by public funds. Many think the Lincoln Monument in Washington is the resting place of Lincoln. Not so.

Lincoln is actually buried below this vault while his wife (Mary) and three children (Tad, Eddie and Willie) are buried in the wall behind where I stood to take this picture.

Below is shown the actual receiving vault where Lincoln's body was buried in 1865. It's just down the hill from the current tomb. Looking back to photos from then, the vault is unchanged.

We returned home on Sunday, June 1. It wasn't enough time to really see it all so I'll probably return some day for a third trip.

Land of Lincoln - Part 4

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is a must-see. Fantastic displays and programs that are technologically state-of-the-art make this a place you have to add to your schedule. Check them out on the web at

A life-like Lincoln family greet you as you enter the museum. It's a good spot to take a picture, too (photos may only be taken in such open areas of the museum, not in the exhbit areas).

A recreation of the White House houses impressive exhibits.

Land of Lincoln - Part 3

The "Old State Capital" is where Lincoln gave one of his most famous speeches. This is where he said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The building itself was dismantled and rebuilt a stone at a time. The stones are a lovely brown color that is striking in the early evening light.

The staircase that greets you inside the front door is breathtaking. This is also the building that received Lincoln's body after his assassination. He lay in state here on May 3-4, 1865 before his burial in nearby Oak Ridge Cemetery, second only to Arlington National Cemetery for visitors.

This is the "Hall of Representatives" where Lincoln said the words that thrust him onto the national stage.

A campaign poster from Lincoln's run for the White House is on display in the Old Capital Building.

Land of Lincoln - Part 2

The "Lincoln Depot" was Lincoln's last stop before departing Springfield for Washington in 1861.

The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices stand across the street from the "Old State Capital" in the heart of downtown Springfield. The free tour is exceptional. Lincoln practiced law here from 1843 to 1852, right above Seth Tinsley's store. The post office was located here, too.

The current Illinois State Capital building is located nearby and it is massive and impressive. I enjoyed looking up along the tall pillars. While we were there, tornado warnings sounded and lawmakers were encouraged to find safe cover. The storm dropped great amounts of rain (3-4") and the clouds swirled but there were no funnels on the ground.

A wider view of the current State Capital Building. This picture was taken late in the day when the lighting was first being switched on. First the highest point and then lights lit the structure from the sides. A wonderful sight!

Land of Lincoln - Part 1

On Friday (06/30), a friend from high school and myself began the five and a half hour (325 mile) trip from Farmersville, Ohio to Springfield, Illinois, hot on the trail of Abraham Lincoln. The painting (below) was taken in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum there - a must see! I was in Springfield years ago, before the museum and library were built, so I had an incentive to return.

Lincoln's house - the only one he ever owned - is still there and the tour is free. Lincoln lived in this house for 17 years, from 1844 until he left for Washington in 1861. The site is operated by the National Park Service and the setting is in a traditional four-block neighborhood that is said to look very close to what Lincoln last saw. There is no access to cars so you can walk safely down the middle of the gravel streets (in Lincoln's time, they would have been dirt - often mud).

A close-up shot of the architecture along the roofline. The brown paint with green trim is said to be exactly how Lincoln had the house painted. Lincoln, by the way, had a number of renovations done to the structure, perhaps the most important being the addition of a second story.

The parlor is decorated as in Lincoln's time. At the fireplace, Lincoln is said to have spread himself out on the floor and read the newspaper.

Springfield is a wonderful city to visit: clean and tidy. You can walk the downtown streets after dark and feel safe. There is a good deal of activity on weekend evenings. Check out their Convention and Vistors Bureau at